Computer Conservation Society turns 25

October 15, 2014 // 1:10 p.m.

Tags: #bombe #colossus #computer-history #dekatron #education #harwell #manchester-baby #museum #vintage-computing

Pioneering vintage computing group the Computer Conservation Society today celebrates its 25th year, marking among its successes the restoration and reconstruction of such milestone machines as the Colossus Mark II and the Manchester Baby.

Set up back in 1989, the Computer Conservation Society began life as a joint venture between the British Computer Society (BCS), the Chartered Institute for IT, the Science Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry, and would be later joined by the National Museum of Computing. The group soon made a name for itself with ambitious period-accurate recreations of long-lost computers, beginning with the Manchester Baby finished in 1998 for the fiftieth anniversary of the original running of the first stored program.

As well as the Baby, which is still running and available for viewing at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, the CCS is responsible for creating the Colossus Mark II at the National Museum of Computing and the Bombe at Bletchley Park - two historic entries from the early days of computing that worked to break ciphers during World War II. More recently, the team has completed the restoration of the Harwell Dekatron and is working on reconstructing EDSAC - generally recognised as the first practical general-purpose computer - both of which are available to view at the National Museum of Computing.

'The combination of computers and conservation is a heady mix as we reflect on the extraordinary achievements of the pioneers of our digital age,' Doron Swade, originator of the CCS idea and co-founder with the late Tony Sale, said at its anniversary. 'At a time when many Museums are increasingly moving to computer screen-based displays rather than artefacts or working objects, the CCS is providing live access to the very machines that have enabled this trend.'

'Computer conservation has both social and historical value. The conserved machines offer superb and unique learning opportunities. These working machines offer an unparalleled experience by showing how they actually work and what it was like to operate them. They help bridge generations and give youngsters a perspective of the unparalleled rate of change that continues in the world of computers today,' claimed Rachel Burnett, chair of the CCS. 'Restoring and reconstructing historic machines draws people into levels of intimate detail with the machine in a way nothing else does. Operating these machines often produces unexpected findings that give greater insights.'

More details of the group, as well as how to join its thousand-strong ranks world-wide, are available on the official website.
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